Underestimated by many, Woolite’s Illuminar secured themselves a spot in the Grand Final.

Against all odds, the Polish powerhouse made their way all the way to the Grand Final in the European Masters 2018 Spring Split. After a less than stellar performance in the group stage, where their only victory came from the German side Ad Hoc Gaming, many miscalculated Paweł “Woolite” Pruski and his team.

In their opening game of the knockout stage, Illuminar played against the heavily favored Movistar Riders. In our interview before the match, Jesper “Jeskla” Klarin Strömberg, AD Carry for Movistar Riders, spoke out against the Polish team and called them out for being one of the weakest teams in the whole tournament.

IHG surprised everyone and came out of that encounter victorious. They overcame the threat of a Spain-based team and found themselves just one step away from the LAN finals.

Illuminar opened the series against Millenium with a quick 25 minute victory and played consistently throughout the series to secure themselves a spot in the Top4. With two favorites behind them, the Polish underdogs bring another one down and get revenge after a devastating group stage loss. This time, the team that got blown away are the French GamersOrigin.

To talk about their underwhelming group stage, unexpected performance at the playoffs, and chances at the Haymarket Theatre in Leicester, we sat down with Illuminar’s star AD Carry Paweł “Woolite” Pruski for an exclusive interview.

Vie: You had a rough start in the group stage, but you managed to pull through in the end. What did you first think after seeing it? 

Woolite: I was really surprised that we went 1:2 and got worried that we won’t even make it past the group stage. Our expectations were much bigger than that, we aimed for first place in the group so it was a big disappointment. When we finally went through from 3rd place I knew we will have enough time to fix our mistakes.

Vie: Looking at the European Masters, which teams would you say look the strongest? 

Woolite: Definitely MAD Lions and GamersOrigin. I was really impressed by KlikTech as well since they came from the Balkan region which no one is familiar with. About winning the whole thing — anything can happen in offline matches.

Vie: The tournament so far showcased a lot of new, young talents who don’t get so many opportunities to play on the international stage. If you had to guess, who you’d say are the most likely ones to move up to the LCS soon?

Woolite: It is a hard question. I believe a lot of the players in the Top4 of the European Masters are LCS level. I’d guess Selfmademan [of MAD Lions] or Icebeasto [Illuminar] are really likely to go there but there are much more players that deserve it.

Vie: How well would you say the EU Masters teams would fair against the LCS level teams? How big is the gap between the two leagues?

Woolite: Any team from this Top4 could handle bottom LCS teams, I think. Especially MAD Lions or GamersOrigin, they are showing really crisp macro. Looking outside of the Top4 the gap gets really big suddenly.

Photo via ESL

Vie: Not many expected your team to get this far, as most of your games you entered as the underdogs. Is it safe to say you have already reached your goal set ahead of the Masters?

Woolite: People saw our bad performance in groups so obviously they expected us to drop out fast. Our scrim level was much higher than that and we aimed to go AT LEAST to semis in this tournament. Also being the underdog put the pressure off our shoulders so we showcased our true level. We knew we can beat Movistar Riders and Millenium if we performed like we do in scrims.

Vie: Your journey was a bit of a wild ride — you just barely made it out of the groups, but completely exploded in the playoffs. It’s like we were looking at completely different Illuminar in the playoffs.

Woolite: I think we were not proactive enough in our earlier games. Even in our win vs Ad Hoc it was a very slow game. Once we realized that, we started playing more aggressively and picking for a more early-mid game. I think the teams in the playoffs didn’t expect it at all so I’m happy with our progression through the tournament.

Vie: Jeskla of the Movistar Riders trash-talked your team pretty heavily before your match. It must have felt great to eliminate them?

Woolite: The only reason Movistar Riders were in this tournament was because they won in the LVP semifinals against Giants who had no jungler (their toplaner Th3Antonio was jungling xD) so I don’t understand where it’s coming from. Their ten man roster obviously did not pay off.

Vie: Your first game on LAN was against GamersOrigin. What do you think of them? You got, well, destroyed by them in the groups. Did that add extra pressure? Or did revenge serve as a motivator for you to perform?

Woolite: GamersOrigin are really good this tournament and we know it. We got hard stomped in groups by them but it only made us stronger. We were much better prepared for them this time. I feel like all the pressure was on them since they are the heavy favorites. Our morale is really high after the wins and we want to continue plowing the enemies on our way.

Vie: Toaster and Pulsas have been pretty dominant in their lane throughout the tournament and yet you completely shut them down.

Woolite: I think it’s all about playing our game in this matchup.Delord and I have been playing for a really long together so our synergy is better. I also think GamersOrigin usually win as a team and not individually, so we have to out-macro them. I was always confident in my laning even when I had to play against FORG1VEN, so I’m not scared at all.

Vie: What do you think of the European Masters in general? Do you think it’s good for the growth of the region or was the old Challenger system more motivating? 

Woolite: This format gives more hype that’s for sure. It’s more interesting to see regions fight it out in a big tournament. I’m happy Riot is trying to promote this much more than before. I always felt like no one cared about Challenger Series but now a lot of people are engaged.

Vie: Thanks for your time, Woolite. Any last words?

Woolite: Thanks to everyone who was believing in us even after the group stage results. We will give our hardest on Sunday. This tournament means a lot to me personally since I have a lot to prove. I’m capable of showing that I can be a consistent player and you could already see a difference in the playoff stage. It’s a fresh start for me.

Illuminar Gaming will battle it out in the Final match of the EU Masters against Origen on Sunday, 29th of April at 18:00 CEST.

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